SC ruling: Foundlings like Poe ‘presumptively natural born’ – court source
MANILA — The Supreme Court has cleared the way for Sen. Grace Poe to run for President, voting to reverse the Commission on Elections (Comelec) orders disqualifying her from the tight race just two months before election day.
In an en banc session on Tuesday, nine justices voted in favor of Poe’s contention that Comelec had committed grave abuse of discretion in canceling her certificate of candidacy (COC) for President, while six affirmed the poll body’s action.
“That’s the only detail I have: 9-6. Nothing else has been authorized,” said court spokesperson Theodore Te in a hastily called briefing at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, the second held on updates from the en banc session.
There was no word yet how the court decided the matter of Poe’s citizenship and residency. The Comelec, acting on four petitions against Poe’s candidacy, had ruled that the senator had committed material misrepresentation in declaring that she was both a natural-born Filipino and a 10-year resident in the Philippines.
In a supplemental statement issued later, Te said: “It may not be safe to report, which ground the Court ruled upon and used as basis for the vote, i.e., between citizenship and residence.”
“Thus, it may be best to simply say, the SC grants Senator Poe’s petitions, 9-6, allowing her to run for the Presidency,” said Te.
A high court insider privy to the deliberations said the majority held that foundlings, or abandoned babies with unknown parentage, were “presumptively or disputably presumed natural-born” despite the silence of the Constitution on their citizenship status.
Magistrates held two hours of deliberations starting at noon on Tuesday, taking an hour off for lunch and resuming at 2 p.m.The voting was concluded just before 3 p.m., according to a source privy to the deliberations.
Justices who voted in favor of Poe include those who strongly argued for the rights of foundlings during oral arguments on the case: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Joining the majority vote were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Francis Jardeleza, and recently appointed Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.
Justices who voted to disqualify Poe include three magistrates who had ruled against her natural-born citizenship as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET): Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, and Arturo Brion, who was on leave on Tuesday, but had already left his vote.
The three had voted against the majority SET decision that upheld Poe’s status as a natural-born citizen in a separate challenge to her 2013 senatorial victory.
The rest who voted to bar Poe’s presidential bid were Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Mariano del Castillo, who was originally the assigned writer of the court’s opinion.
Of President Aquino’s six appointees in the high court, four voted in favor of Poe — Sereno, Leonen, Perez, Jardeleza and Caguiao — while the two others — Reyes and Bernabe — upheld her disqualification.
“The court will release the text of the decision and separate opinions in the next few days. As you may understand, upon a voting, the court will then finalize who will write for the court,” Te told reporters.
“That matter has not yet been decided, and once the ponente has been decided, the text will then follow,” he said.
Poe’s lawyer George Garcia said: “This is a miraculous day! Grace Poe is truly a woman of destiny. Thanks to the Supreme Court.”
Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who had argued for the rights of foundlings and recognition for Filipino migrants during oral arguments, said: “The result is both legally correct and just. The decision will be a legacy of the court’s solicitous regard for marginalized groups and overseas Filipino workers.”
The four private petitioners who opposed Poe’s candidacy vowed to fight the ruling through a motion for reconsideration.
“It’s a dangerous result. It’s a recipe for chaos. The Constitution was bastardized. We will file a MR (motion for reconsideration) as soon as it (decision) becomes official,” said lawyer Manuelito Luna, who represents former Sen. Francisco “Kit” Tatad.
Former University of the East law dean Amado Valdez saw a “possible betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution” in the court ruling.
“We will file an MR on the ground of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust,” he said in a statement sent to reporters yesterday.
Said De La Salle University Professor Antonio Contreras: “I can only respect the ruling but will not accept it. We did not lose today. It is the rule of law that lost.”
He blasted the nine justices who voted for Poe, saying they had “reversed well-established jurisprudence on residence,” while expressed gratitude to the six who voted to uphold Poe’s disqualification.
“I feel sorry for those who came before her (Poe) who were similarly situated but were prevented from running,” said Contreras in a statement.
Former Government Service Insurance System chief legal counsel Estrella Elamparo said: “Although I’ve been hearing about this scenario, I am still shocked because the law is so clear. I cannot comment beyond that because I have not read the decision.”
In rulings upheld by the Comelec en banc, the poll body’s First and Second Divisions had found that Poe was not qualified to run for president as she is not natural-born and would only be a Philippine resident for nine years and six months by balloting day in May.
The Comelec held that Poe may not be regarded as natural-born as provisions of the 1935 Constitution, which covered her birth year 1968, was silent on the citizenship status of foundlings. It also bound Poe to her 2012 COC for senator, where she had declared that she would be a Philippine resident for six years and six months come the 2013 election day.
Poe’s camp asserted that international law gave foundlings natural-born status, and that her period of residency in the Philippines should be reckoned from 2005, when she and her family returned after decades of staying in the United States.
A baby abandoned at a church in Jaro, Iloilo in 1968, Poe was raised by the late actor and 2004 presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. and actress Susan Roces. She had spent most of her adult life in the United States, spurned her Filipino citizenship and became a US citizen in 2001, after marrying Filipino-American Neil Llamanzares.
A school teacher in the United States, she returned to Manila on May 24, 2005, reacquired her Filipino citizenship in 2006, but renounced her American citizenship only four years later, in 2010, when she was appointed chair of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. SFM
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